Scenarios for the future of the EU-Turkey relationship

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters, with Turkish and EU flags in the background
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s turn toward one-man rule could mean his country will have to wave goodbye to EU membership (source: dpa)
  • Turkey and the EU are increasingly at odds
  • Ending accession negotiations would hinder partnership in crucial areas
  • Both sides can meet their goals by pragmatically maintaining the status quo

The European Union is dithering over its Turkey policy. This comes after the country held a referendum in 2017 that endorsed a presidential system, eliminating most checks and balances from the constitution. The Turkish opposition had already suffered a wave of repression following a series of terrorist attacks and the failed July 2016 coup. The European Parliament has called for abandoning Turkey’s EU membership talks if the constitution is changed to formalize one-man rule. The responsible European Commissioner proposes a review of the EU’s Turkey policy.

The union’s membership criteria include democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Today, Turkey cannot be considered eligible for EU membership. The 2017 World Press Freedom Index ranked the country 155th, just ahead of Iran and China. New arrests occur daily. Self-censorship has become the only means of professional survival for writers, academics and journalists. Nevertheless, most member states still prefer maintaining Turkey’s accession process.

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